Focused ion beam (FIB)/scanning electron microscopy (SEM) in tissue structural research
The focused ion beam (FIB) and scanning electron microscope (SEM) are commonly used in material sciences for imaging and analysis of materials. Over the last decade, the combined FIB/SEM system has proven to be also applicable in the life sciences. We have examined the potential of the focused ion beam/scanning electron microscope system for the investigation of biological tissues of the model organism Porcellio scaber (Crustacea: Isopoda). Tissue from digestive glands was prepared as for conventional SEM or as for transmission electron microscopy (TEM). The samples were transferred into FIB/SEM for FIB milling and an imaging operation. FIB-milled regions were secondary electron imaged, back-scattered electron imaged, or energy dispersive X-ray (EDX) analyzed. Our results demonstrated that FIB/SEM enables simultaneous investigation of sample gross morphology, cell surface characteristics, and subsurface structures. The same FIB-exposed regions were analyzed by EDX to provide basic compositional data. When samples were prepared as for TEM, the information obtained with FIB/SEM is comparable, though at limited magnification, to that obtained from TEM. A combination of imaging, micro-manipulation, and compositional analysis appears of particular interest in the investigation of epithelial tissues, which are subjected to various endogenous and exogenous conditions affecting their structure and function. The FIB/SEM is a promising tool for an overall examination of epithelial tissue under normal, stressed, or pathological conditions.